Staying relevant

Communication specialist JoseBayani Baylon is a keen observer of Philippine politics. He is sharing with VERA Files readers his reading of political movements, obvious and not-so-obvious, leading up to the election in May 2022.

President Duterte threw the Philippine political world into a tizzy last Saturday when he accompanied trusted aide Sen. Bong Go to the Comelec so the latter could file his candidacy for president. It should be remembered that Go had initially filed papers as a candidate for vice president of the PDP-Laban.

But what changed was the move of Davao Mayor Sara Duterte to withdraw her candidacy for city mayor in order to run for vice president under the Lakas -NUCD, a precursor to the party’s adoption of Ferdinand Marcos Jr as it’s standard bearer. Marcos had filed his papers under the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas without a running mate; Sara could now be adopted and the ticket would be complete.

These moves “displaced” Bong Go, who now had to withdraw as Vice President because he couldn’t run against the President’s own daughter. And so he announced this, teary eyed, to an Antipolo crowd. But someone else was also watching.

In an interview Saturday midnight, the President related that he asked Go “Bakit ka umiiyak? May ibang posisyon pa dyan. Eh di mag Presidente ka”. Which explains why Go did just that a few hours earlier. Duterte has more to say: he could not support Marcos Jr., he said, because Marcos was “pro-communist”. And Sara has been manipulated by Marcos to file though he couldn’t blame her. “Matagal na kami hindi nag-uusap.” Finally, he played coy when asked if he would run as Vice President to Go. “Give me a few hours”, he said.

When Monday arrived, Duterte did not file for vice president as he had hinted, but he did two more surprising things: he filed for senator, and he filed as a candidate not of PDP- Laban but of Pederalismo ng Dugong Dakilang Samahan or PDDS.

All these seem to me as Duterte’s way of staying relevant at a time when he risks being treated as a lame duck. At the same time they are slaps - not just Marcos, but at Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as well.

True or not there have long been whispers that the Duterte kids Sara, Sebastian and Paolo were not too happy with the influence (if not control) that Bong Go as SAP was wielding over their father. It was a factor as well, perhaps, that Go was seen as an ally of Duterte’s second partner, Honeylet Avanceña, and of former House speaker Alan Cayetano. That the Duterte siblings wanted to end Go’s hold on power through their father was a common chismis: that they wanted to do that by 2022 was logical.

The presence of GMA and Lakas NUCD as the bridge between the ambitions of children of presidents was perfect. That GMA herself was seeking a comeback in the House and could become the next Speaker again completed the picture .

All these were not good for Go. Whether it was really the President talking from the heart or it was Go talking through the President, PRRD said that Saturday midnight that he wasn’t happy with how things unfolded.

But what about the new party? Why not PDP- Laban?

It just struck me the other day that Alfonso Cusi has long been described as a “GMA man”. That PRRD decided to finally abandon the Cusi wing of the PDP Laban in favor of a previously unknown one may be, in my eyes at least, a further signal of his deep disenchantment with the way the whole Marcos -Duterte team-up was hatched, one that brought his trusted aide Bong Go to tears. Now even if GMA wins, becomes speaker of the House and proceeds to hatch a move to a parliamentary system as is rumored, she can be checked by a Senate whose president is Rodrigo Duterte!

Lesson learned; even a lame duck can still quack, and there is a whale of a difference between a lame duck and a dead duck.

Ducks, even when lame, can still remain relevant.

The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.



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Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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